After continuous electoral debacles in over two years, Rahul Gandhi pitchforked himself to the forefront in the party in a bid to galvanise the rank and file by stepping up his offensive on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a gamble he hopes will pay off in the new year and after.
While Rahul’s emergence from the shadows of his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi gave the party some reasons to cheer, unabated electoral descent remained a cause of concern throughout 2016.
Congress lost Assam and Kerala to the BJP- and Left Front- led coalitions respectively in May, failing to revive its sagging fortunes having seen a solitary election win in Bihar in 2015.
Even in Arunachal Pradesh, Congress, after an initial respite from the Supreme Court, suffered a major setback when its entire state unit and all but one of its MLAs defected to a regional party to form a government with BJP’s support.
On the political front, Uttarakhand was the sole reason for solace to Congress, with the court intervening to restore its government after the imposition of President’s rule by the Centre.
Although in West Bengal, Congress made marginal gains, a section of its state leaders were deeply shaken by what they claimed as an “unholy alliance” with the Left, against which the party was pitted directly in Kerala.
On the organisational front, an ailing Sonia Gandhi withdrew herself consciously from leadership role, getting her son and Amethi MP to step into her shoes in the year gone by.
This resulted in many firsts for Rahul. In November, Rahul chaired his first meeting of the Congress Working Committee which even passed a resolution recommending his elevation as party president.
Later on 28 December, Rahul chaired the Congress foundation day celebrations for the first time, addressing his colleagues. In between, while Sonia stayed away from public roles, Rahul emerged as the leader of Congress’ strategy in Parliament managing to work with the larger Opposition on the issue of demonetisation.
Rahul’s ability to carry the Opposition together, however, remained under question when on the last day of Winter Session of Parliament, senior Opposition leaders from Left, SP, BSP, NCP, JDU and DMK, pulled out of a joint visit to the President on the matter of demonetisation after he unilaterally went and met the prime minister on farmers’ issues.
The Opposition leaders had withdrawn after several days of opposition unity which was evident from the unprecedented coordination on the issue of demonetisation as the year drew to a close.
Every day of the Winter Session, 16 Opposition leaders including arch rivals Left and TMC, SP and BSP met every morning to discuss ways of cornering the government. This unity suffered a blow with Rahul’s move of meeting Modi.